The One Essential Rule For Winning An Argument

In Jeopardy style . . . the answer is; “knowing the difference between why and how.”

So what is the question?

How do you win an argument?

Now that you know the answer, thank you for reading my post.

Okay, there may be a little bit more information to share. But really, when it comes to winning an argument or, championing an idea that you truly believe makes the most sense, what is the difference between why and how?

“Why” Closes The Door

When you tell people why you are right, you are in essence defending your position or idea.

Research shows that in the process of defending your idea, the beliefs behind them become more deeply entrenched. This closes the door to understanding another’s point of view, because you are more invested in being right.


If the other person with whom you are arguing is also focused on why they are right, you will – more often than not –  come to an immovable object meeting an irresistible force impasse.

The How Alternative

Regardless of whether you are in disagreement with someone, or meeting resistance to your ideas, instead of asking them why they believe they are right, ask them how they would do what they are proposing.

Think about this for a moment – queue Jeopardy music.

When you ask someone why they believe their idea would work, it triggers a defense mechanism. In essence you are challenging them to explain themselves, or to justify their position.

However, when you ask them how they would go about making their idea or position work, you are asking for clarification. You are giving them an opportunity to show you how it would be implemented in a practical sense.

This is a subtle yet important difference.

The Power of How

Have you ever asked someone how they do something?

Did you notice that in their response there is an openness and a willingness to share what they know? In fact for most people, they are usually happy to demonstrate their knowledge or expertise.

In this regard, “How” is the ultimate icebreaker. It opens the door to greater discussion and understanding. This in turns provides both yourself and the other person with an opportunity to truly assess the merits of each other’s position.

Getting To How

In his Business Insider article titled The Secret To Winning An Argument Is Ridiculously Simple, Drake Baer makes reference to two simple rules:

  • If you want to win an argument, ask your friend/colleague/partner/nemesis to explain how their perspective can be brought into reality.
  • If you want to remain convinced of your position, don’t just bring your reasons for why you’re right to the debate — make sure to bring along implementations too.

While I believe that one should not view a disagreement from the standpoint of there being a winner and a loser, I understand Baer’s point.

To get to “how”, you must do your homework.

This means understanding how your idea or position can be implemented in a practical sense. Then you must be able to present it in a cool and logical way, clearly demonstrating how your idea or position will produce the best outcome.

If your’s is the idea that can stand the “how” test, then everyone will likely adopt it – even those who initially disagreed with you (especially if they get hung up at the how stage).

Tips for winning an argument:

  • Don’t make it about being right, but getting it right
  • Do your homework and understand how your position can be practically applied in the real world to achieve a desired outcome
  • Be passionate but not emotional – confidently demonstrate how your idea will work
  • Be ready to put your idea into action
  • Invest time in demonstrating the true value to the individual
  • Practice the art of patience because not everyone is comfortable with change



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4 responses to “The One Essential Rule For Winning An Argument”

  1. idogwalkdwp says :

    You are RIGHT and this is a good informative article. I have to say I appreciated the 4th line for the laugh.

  2. Patti J. Magyar says :

    Being a “right fighter” (Dr. Phil-speak) is a lonely self-righteous way to live. And, by powerfully asking, and genuinely being curious about, “how” a lot of sharing and enlightening information is shared! It is wonderful to validate other people and their knowledge, insight & creativity! And, this applies exponentially, to children … we wield powerful influence in this world over colleagues and our children. Using it for the best outcomes is exciting!

  3. belajar islam says :

    Just want to say your article is as surprising.

    The clarity in your post is just cool and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject.
    Well with your permission let me to grab your feed to keep
    up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and
    please carry on the enjoyable work.

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